Summary: Recognizing the feeling of "let-down" after Christmas may mean we're following the wrong calendar. This sermon is a different take on the resolutions to Eat Better, Lose Weight and Exercise More.
(Need large Snow Globe hidden behind pulpit)
For too many people this is what Christmas looks like. (BRING OUT AND SHAKE SNOW GLOBE WHILE SINGING): “You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry. You’d better not pout, I’m telling you why. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow.”
It’s fun, exciting, bright lights, warm, fuzzy sentimentality, eggnog, ribbons, and then the trash can is filled with gift wrap and it’s done. Over. The fake plastic snow has settled to the bottom of the SnowGlobe for another year.
But, have you ever thought about who determines your Christmas season? For eighteen hundred years it was the church. But by the end of the 19th Century, the start of the Christmas season was being determined by the major department stores. The retailers had hijacked the holy days and reinvented Christmas to be a time of giving gifts. Today the Christmas season is driven by the National Retail Federation and officially begins when the plastic Santas are on the shelf next to the Halloween skeletons.
And this weekend, all the Christmas stuff is 70% off. America’s retailers need to dump those Nativity sets and plastic angels at deeply discounted prices and get them out of our stores because in two weeks we need to start our marketing campaign for Valentine’s Day.
A few years ago, I had my own personal epiphany about Christmas that changed forever the way I look at this season. I’d always felt that let-down after Christmas day. All that excitement and anticipation building up to December 25th. The decorations. Lights. Carols. People were even being uncommonly NICE to each other. And then it was over and feelings of sadness would come over me on December 26th. And my epiphany was when I realized that even though I knew and preached the true meaning of Christmas, my worldview of Christmas had been determined not by the sacred but by the secular.
According to the church calendar, Advent starts a four week season of anticipation for the coming of Christ. Then on December 25th there is a twelve day time of celebration that ends at the feast of the Epiphany. If you didn’t know what the Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas referred to, you do now. We are still right in the middle of Christmas. Turn to someone and tell them MERRY CHRISTMAS!
See, it all takes on a new perspective for us when we take our focus off the snowglobe and put it on the manger. Santa and his reindeer are done. But the Christ child in the manger has just begun. And because we are worshipers, we never stop celebrating our Savior. In my house there is a sculpture of the nativity on the piano. There’s another smaller one in my bedroom. Those don’t get packed away each year. They are out to remind me that the celebration of the coming of Jesus is not just in December. It’s year around.
Let me suggest that you do something revolutionary. Take back your Christmas from the National Retail Federation. Be bold and use the Church calendar instead of Target’s and Macy’s calender. If you’ve ever experienced an emotional let down after Christmas – a disappointment that it’s over – then you’ve been using the wrong calendar.
The secular calendar on your wall with the cute kittens starts the year on January 1st, that’s obviously why we call it New Year’s Day. But the church calendar starts the sacred calendar on that First Sunday of Advent. In the secular world, Christmas marks the end of the year but in the sacred world, Christmas marks the beginning of your year.
Today is the first Sunday after Christmas and for those with a secular worldview: the parties, sentimental movies, gifts, lights, inflatable Grinches, joy and happiness are over. For those with Kingdom of God worldview, the joy and happiness has only just begun. Jesus has come. God incarnate. Emmanuel – God with Us – is here. Santa brings toys and games to good little boys and girls. But Jesus has come to bring us abundant life.
MARANATHA! The Lord has come. And in John 10:10, Jesus says "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Abundantly is a Greek word per-ISS-on meaning over and above. It means exceeding a measure of something. It means something superfluous – something more than you’ll ever need. It means superabundant. Exceeding what is common. But there’s an implication of excellence. When Jesus comes into your life, He not only brings you a superabundant life, He brings you a life filled with excellence.
How sad it is that John 10:10 is one of the main scriptures that prosperity preachers use to convince that Jesus has promised that you will have unlimited wealth and material goods. We know that the abundant life promised by Jesus is so much more than just money.